Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Downtown Dining Wealth: Woodwork

When Amanda and I walked into Woodwork for the first time, we both were struck by how much the restaurant reminded us of Toronto. Located in a heritage building, with a serious cocktail menu and a high hipster quotient, the only thing that grounded us in Edmonton was the reality that spaces in Toronto are much more narrow.

Woodwork is a collaboration between Chef Mike Scorgie of the Nomad Food Truck, and Barman Andrew Borley of the Volstead Act. It’s been a long time coming for the restaurant – they celebrated the start of construction with a pig roast pop-up back in April, and after assembling a bar and restaurant from scratch, Woodwork opened its doors in December.

As a downtown resident, it’s always heartening to see a restaurant like Woodwork open up in the neighbourhood. It’s these unique businesses that draw clientele from across the city because their take on food and drink cannot be found anywhere else. Adding to an immediate area already populated with Corso 32 and Tres Carnales, I’m not ashamed to say – keep the dining wealth coming!

I’ve been to Woodwork twice already. Once, on a Sunday in late December with a girlfriend, and more recently, last Friday with my family. Both times it was busy, buzzing with the energy that comes with being the newest kid on the block. Décor was minimal, which further showcases both their impressive bar and open kitchen. Mack also commented that their neon sign, coloured blue, also lends a soft, complementary glow to the entrance.

Woodwork

Stacked bar

Since my first visit, Woodwork has made some changes to help manage the temperature of the space. Seated by the front on both occasions, the installation of a door closure and an overhead heater made a noticeable difference. That said, an L-shaped glass partition would do wonders to direct the chill away from the tables – this is definitely a challenge we face in our winter city!

With their attention to detail in everything from the selection of spirits to their ice-making process, Woodwork is raising the bar with their drinks menu. I appreciated the description under each of their creations, and the range of cocktails available (i.e., a take on the Old Fashioned for Mack and sweeter concoctions for me).

Woodwork

Round one

As found on many on-trend menus, there is the option to order snacks, in addition to the usual smaller and large plates, sides and desserts. With May, we decided to sample the smaller dishes. On vacation detox, I ordered the brassica salad ($13), a tasty combination of kale, charred cauliflower, tomato, aged cheese and a poached egg. I loved the pickled onions, and my only nitpick was for the kale to have been torn into smaller pieces.

Woodwork

Brassica salad

The Nomad baked beans, topped with charred pepper crème fraiche ($11) was a much larger serving than I was expecting. Though I could have used more bread, the beans had a nice sweetness. As a bonus, the leftovers made a great lazy lunch the next day.

Woodwork

Nomad baked beans

May’s smoked chicken drumsticks ($8) was an equally generous serving (classified as a “snack”, after all), and she enjoyed them well enough. The chowder St. Jacques ($13) was her favourite, containing a well-cooked scallop and a cheddar biscuit. The shallow bowl made it more challenging to slurp up every bite, but it was worth it!

Woodwork

Smoked chicken drumsticks

Woodwork

Chowder St. Jacques

With my family, we shared a few sides, including the Saskatchewan yellow grits ($11) with red eye gravy and the mac n’ cheese ($14). The latter was no doubt their most popular truck offering, so we knew it had to make an appearance on their regular menu. In the restaurant, it has been upgraded to a cast-iron pan, piled high with pork crackling. It definitely had more heat than I remembered, but there were favourable comments all around.

Woodwork

Mac n’ cheese

The Toulouse for two ($29) consisted of sausage seasoned only with salt and pepper and Parisienne potatoes in a pork and onion reduction. This was my favourite dish; the kitchen was able to coax great flavour out of what could otherwise be a very basic item.

Woodwork

Toulouse for two

My sister’s confit of pork shoulder ($22) was gone before we knew it, flaked apart with her fork alone. And for someone who doesn’t usually like lentils, she finished all of the yolk-flecked side without complaint.

Woodwork

Confit of pork shoulder

Mack’s hangar steak ($24) was a slight disappointment. Cooked close to well-done (as opposed to the promised medium rare), the steak could have been more charred, and less chewy. He did appreciate the beurre bercy, a butter containing reduced wine and shallots.

Woodwork

Hangar steak

Thankfully, the kitchen wasn’t out of the peanut butter, chocolate and raspberry thang ($9) on my second visit. I’m not sure the presentation was appealing for me (given I’d just eaten the similarly shaped Toulouse), but the whipped peanut butter was delicious. Perhaps a mason jar could be used for serving, to visually denote the layers of flavour?

Woodwork

Peanut butter, chocolate and raspberry thang

Service on both occasions was great, warm and friendly. It was busy throughout the evening, but we were never lost in the shuffle, and did not feel rushed.

This is just the beginning for Woodwork – with a solid menu of food and drinks, I look forward to watching this restaurant evolve with the seasons and become a fixture of the downtown restaurant scene.

Woodwork
10132 100 Street
(780) 757-4100
Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday 11am-12am, Friday 11am-late, Saturday 5pm-late, Sunday 5pm-12am, closed Wednesdays